How My Mental Health Benefited from Riding a Motorcycle
When you reach a certain age, namely your thirties, it becomes almost taboo to discuss your anxiety and depression with anyone other than your therapist. In my own experience, this was definitely true.
I have been battling with mental illness for as long as I can remember. All throughout my formative years, some abnormal thing was growing inside of me. It made me sad in the winter and it made me drink too much when I was alone and it kept me up at night wondering if anything even mattered. Sometime in my mid-twenties, when I moved to the city, I shut it down. “Hey there, painful thing,” I said. “Let’s chill out and concentrate on adult stuff for a few years.” And so we sat, with an awesome new journalism job in a shiny city with a boatload of friends.
But a few years ago, it began moving around again, banging on my brain, telling me that I’m not good enough, that people don’t like me, that I’m a failure. And as much as I tried to shut it out with work and therapy and medication and exercise, it always came back.
It wasn’t until I was 30 that I discovered a temporary release from my mental demons. I was dating a man who owned a Harley and suggested I try riding one for myself. I had always had a fascination with motorcycles. They were synonymous with freedom and rebellion. So, I got myself a little Honda CL360 and never looked back.
Riding for me, was a pastime defined by duplicities. It was a tightrope I walked between joy and fear; between life and death. Twisting that throttle and making my bike bleat, then gulp, then roar and knowing that I would find the peace of mind that I so craved while I was on this machine became my saving grace.
And I’m not alone in my experiences. A recent study conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) concluded that riding a motorcycle is good for your mental health.
So is there science behind why riders feel so good? The answer is surprisingly yes.
Building Brain Power
Riding a motorcycle has been shown to boost the brain’s health and functionality. Riders are in a constant dance with their bike, utilizing not only the thought processing component of their brain to make snap decisions about the highway ahead but also the aspect of their mind that oversees coordination and balance.
In all of my time practicing meditation, I have never been more aware of my present state than when I was on a bike.
Mindfulness is defined as “the quality of being conscious or aware of something.” It is the psychological act of bringing your attention to the present moment.
Riding a motorcycle is literally mindfulness in motion. You have to be aware in order to stay alive. You have to tune your complete attention to the world around you and not the negative thoughts occupying your mind.
At One with Nature
Nature has always helped me to heal. I grew up riding horses and always adored being able to immerse myself in a gorgeous setting where I was surrounded by nothing but forest.
Riders, especially in rural areas, can have the same experience on their bike. They are acutely aware of the sun on their face, the wind whipping past them, and the scenery on either side of the road.
Riding a motorcycle is certainly dangerous. But it is just as rewarding. For folks that are in a constant struggle with their own mental anguishes, a journey on two wheels can be a surprising method of relief.